By Kalea Hall
Dominic Baragona has always loved to frighten people.
His daughter, Tara Stitle, naturally became a part of her father’s hobby at the young age of 9.
“I had no choice,” Stitle said.
The two, along with the rest of their scare family, run the Canfield Scaregrounds. With more than 160 monsters, multiple fully developed theatrical scenes — from brain-eating zombies to evil gnomes — and three separate scary attractions, the Scaregrounds will be sure to scare anyone who has the guts to enter.
“One thing we have to get away from is Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger,” Stitle said. “It’s not your mom and dad’s monster here.”
Baragona created Mid-America Events Ltd. in 1985 and brought the scares to the fairgrounds in 1992. Mid-America Events also runs Ghost Lake at Conneaut Lake Park and home and garden shows throughout the area. But scaring seems to be the favorite part of the business.
“I think we would do this all year round if we could,” Baragona said.
One factor separating the Canfield Scaregrounds from other scary attractions is that it’s temporary. A temporary haunting attraction is more difficult to set up, but means new ideas are constantly being generated to scare.
“We can’t build on each year — we have to build new,” Baragona said.
Developing new ideas on how to scare takes time, dedication and, of course, imagination. A crew of managers along with Stitle, who manages the Canfield Scaregrounds, and Baragona start to think about what to do next year as soon as the Scaregrounds close down.
“We are really trying to be unique,” Stitle said.
Being unique means making their own characters such as Bullseye the clown and Stitch the clown. Extensive makeup and props are a necessity, but the actors are what bring the characters to life and bring the fear out in people.
“You cannot force people to scare people,” Baragona said. “It gets in their blood. I call it “the power to scare.”
Being a temporary scare attraction is not at all simple. With just two weeks to put everything together, including putting up wooden walls, painting them, setting scenes, finding actors and prepping the actors, the process is nonstop and expensive. More than $175,000 is spent every year for rent and to pay for advertising, makeup and props. More than $3,000 is spent on fog juice for “the mist,” an added attraction to the haunted house and hayride.
“We have almost completely revamped everything,” Baragona said.
This year, the haunted house is packed with 33 scenes of horror, gore and monsters in every corner. The pitch-black house makes it impossible to know what is going to come next. More than 90 monsters are inside the house, making sure all customers scream.
“It is designed to scare people every six seconds,” Baragona said.
The hayride is just as interactive as the haunted house with 40 to 50 monsters and takes riders through three barns.
“This time you are in it,” Baragona said. “It is very interactive and gets you involved.”
The Canfield Scaregrounds will be open from 7 p.m. until midnight every Friday and Saturday until Nov. 2. Ticket prices are available at canfieldscaregrounds.com. Tickets can be purchased at the Scaregrounds, and discount tickets can be purchased at Arby’s and Country Fair stores.